This tank in Uttarakhand’s capital does not only supply water

Dehra Dun : In the heart of Uttarakhand’s capital, there is what is called a parade ground. It is probably so named because pre-independence British troops held their parades there, but over the past years it is primarily used as a ground where political speeches are held during elections, circuses pitch their big tents here, and carnivals and other festivities are held on this huge ground, a part of which is now being converted into a sports complex.

On the corner of this ground some years backs was constructed a huge water tank. Its primarily purpose was to store thousands of gallons of water which could then be distributed to the adjoining localities, but somewhere along the way it became known or rather notorious for agitators climbing up and refusing to come down till their demands are met.

While it may not be that easy for the agitators or those protesting their demands to climb the large number of steps to reach the fencing at the base of the water tank, but it becomes a nightmare for the cops to tackle the agitators or protestors on the top. If the cops try to climb the steps to go to the top and bring the agitators down, they threaten to jump down and kill themselves forcing the cops to retract their steps.

Protesters atop Pavilion tank
Protesters atop Pavilion tank

The cops have to put a net around the tank a few feet above the ground lest one or more of the agitators gets carried away, encouraged by their large number of colleagues shouting slogans below and take a plunge down. Further cops apprehend fears that at night when the agitators atop are sleeping there are chances that in sleep they may roll down the side as there is a gap in the barricading and plunge down to sure death.

Lately five laboratory and office assistants have been atop the water tank for almost five days now and despite the chief minister warning them that if they did not come down till 11 a m today (Monday) he would withdraw the announcements that he had made earlier to adjust them in posts under the education department.

It may be mentioned here that over 1850 office and laboratory assistants who were working in government schools till March 31 this year lost their jobs, because of lack of funds after the central government slashed its funding for the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA). While five members have been atop the tank, a large number of them sit in the ground below, providing food and encouragement.

Interestingly the tank has become a hallmark for protesters from various walks and this is not the first time, nor is it going to be the last, when protesting employees or agitators make it to the top in support of their demands. This has happened earlier also, but in most cases the agitating employees have come down at the most after a night. This is perhaps the first time that they have been firmly entrenched on the top for almost five days.

Despite the rains and assurances from government officials, the demonstrators have simply refused to come down and have been insisting that the government issues a G O regarding their jobs then alone would they come down. They claim that have been protesting for a quite some time now but all they have been given are plain assurances.

While the agitators atop the tank have put up canvas sheets to protect themselves from the rain and food is passed on to them by their colleagues who are below, how they have managed for the last five days is anybody’s guess.

A senior cop on conditions of anonymity said that its a Jekyl and Hide issue for the government. If the demands are ceded, it will pave way for other agitators to resort to similar tactics of climbing up the tank, if not then bringing them down remains to be tackled, specially should one or more on top get hurt or seriously sick due to exposure.

A journalist with over 40 years of experience, Jagdish Bhatt is Editor Hill Post (Uttarakhand). Jagdish has worked with India's leading English dailies, which include Times of India, Indian Express, Pioneer and several other reputed publications. A highly acclaimed journalist, Jagdish is a recipient of many awards, latest being the 2011 Development Journalism Award. He lives in Dehra Dun.

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